Bruce Clay has fundamentally re-written every one of his well known SEO Tools. Starting from scratch the entire codebase has been re-built in .Net and Python and, where appropriate, is using Amazon's EC2 cloud. The service sells for $9.95 per month, per domain but will also retain a free offering for users to experiment with. Currently 50k people are using the old version of the tool.
The SEOtoolset is not designed to replace any of the other SEO tools that are on the market today, such as those offered by SEOmoz, Raventools or SEObook. Instead, it is focussed on 'bread and butter' SEO routines such as rank checking, keyword suggestion and competitive reporting with baked in user-administration features designed to empower teams to collaborate on projects. However, unlike LinkDex, the service is not a task management system and does not provide advice - you have to be somewhat of an experienced SEO to make use of the data.
The most appealing part of the service SEO professionals is the astonishing speed and accuracy of the rank checker. In conversation with Bruce Clay last week, he told me that "the search engines have been very good to us" and provided the tool with access to the latest APIs.
I'm a bit a cynical about rank checkers myself - having had to run ranking reports over night, only to find that the positions returned are all wrong and providing reports too dense to make sense of, so I was pleasantly surprised to get an SEOToolset demonstration which generated a report in less than 3 minutes - in fact, the engine can report on 120 keywords a minute, making 12 API calls per keyword.
I then checked the reported rankings against the actual ones and every query was correct! Another neat feature is that the rank checker could report on the main domain and alias' at the same time. However, personally speaking, the best feature was being able to see what pages were gaining top rankings for specific queries, and then drill down on that specific page to find out what other terms it was also ranking well for.
Pay By URL, Not By User
Another appealing feature of the tool was that any SEO project could have multiple users with different rights and permissions. Furthermore the interface supports 22 languages and multibit unicode meaning the interface is also usable in Russian, Japanese and Chinese, which could be a massive boost for distributed companies and those that want to break into new markets or cut operational costs.
Keyword Research Via Category/Community
The keyword research tool maps suggestions to what Clay calls Community Categories to eradicate nonsense words. Categories could be turned on and off which helps to quickly identify negative keywords.
This was particularly useful in my test of the word 'loans' - lending companies tend to specialize in one particular type of loan and unwittingly pay for clicks on broad matched terms such as 'student loans' and 'car loans' when their business only offers mortgage loans. Not only was the category switch able to quickly turn off irrelevant industries but it was also adept at going finding related keywords which went beyond synonyms and match themeselves. For example the keyword research tool also suggested 'mortage rates' and 'foreclosures'.
- Cloak check - confirm that you are not showing up as cloaking in anyway for any search engine.
- Keyword density - this compared keyword density against competitors and industry averages
- Tag information - a 'parametric' report which was color coded against the campaign keyword list to essentially audit them against the website structure. Included information about anchor and alt text, non-heirarchical presentation and non-executable links.
The only gripe I have so far is that whilst the tool runs smoothly once everything is setup, initially I found the interface to be a bit more complicated than I would like - nothing serious, but more like a PC than a Mac.
Bruce Clay is taking suggestions for improving version 5 of SEO Toolset. If there are any features you are desperately looking for in an SEO tool theni would suggest you leave them in the comments. For those eager to get their teeth stuck in, the Bruce Clay company blog also provides details of a 30 day free trial.